In response to "Pocahontas" chant, UBC plans to tackle students' ignorance of aboriginal issues
The UBC commerce students who participated in a "Pocahontas" chant during FROSH activities didn't know they were being racist toward aboriginal peoples.
That's according to a fact-finding report released today (October 21) by the university, which has concluded its investigation into the September incident.
UBC's investigators interviewed nine first-year students and three FROSH leaders, who are all students in the Sauder School of Business. The two-person team reported that the derogatory chants, used by a frosh group named "Pocahontas" and consisting of 18 students, were inspired by the Disney film.
These chants—which, like the widely publicized rape chant, occurred during the Commerce Undergraduate Society's frosh events—included:
- "Pocah, Pocah, Pocah, Pocahontas – white man took our land, sacrifice [family name of group leader representing John Smith in the skit]."
- "Pocahontass, ass, ass, ass"
Some of the students even wore face paint and feathers.
"Although students involved say they did not intend any harm and no first year student or group leader raised a concern or objection about the name of the group or the chant, it is clear these students did not take into consideration the derogatory Aboriginal stereotypes or the greater historical context of their group name and chant," the UBC report states. "The students did not understand or recognize that their actions would be insulting, demeaning and hurtful toward the Aboriginal community."
Robert Helsley, dean of the Sauder School of Business, announced today a series of measures aimed at raising student awareness of aboriginal issues and the impact of racism on aboriginal communities.
According to a UBC news release, plans include holding workshops with the university’s First Nations studies program, incorporating aboriginal topics into the business curriculum, and redesigning first-year students' orientation. Students who carried out the chant have already had discussions with First Nations studies faculty and students.
“The report we are releasing today shows us there is very little awareness of Indigenous peoples and their concerns among the students we interviewed,” Louise Cowin, UBC vice president for students, said in the release. “Clearly, UBC has a role to play in educating students to become more culturally competent.”
UBC's Point Grey campus lies in the territory of the Musqueam First Nation.